Standardized Testing Should Stay! It’s Needed for College Admission.

 Standardized Testing Should Stay! It’s Needed for College Admission.

 Elie Aoun ’21

Standardized testing is dreaded by most students starting the college admissions process for valid reasons: it can be stressful and time consuming. Many students also become frustrated because they are not able to earn the score they would like. The frequent test cancellations resulting from COVID-19 have led most universities to become test-optional for the 2020-2021 college admissions cycle. Though standardized testing in its current form is flawed and in need of major reforms, it will be incredibly difficult for colleges and universities to admit the most qualified students into their institutions without the presence of standardized testing. It makes sense and is fair that colleges and universities are test optional this school year, but in a pre-or-post-COVID world it is important that some standardized metric exists so that college admissions can be as merit-based as possible.

 Standardized testing is necessary to help colleges admit the most qualified students.

Standardized testing exists primarily because of the phenomena of grade inflation. Statistics that go back several decades show that over the years an increasingly higher percentage of students earned As and Bs, while a decreasing proportion earned Cs or less. According to data from Michael Hurwitz of The College Board and Jason Lee of the University of Georgia, in 1998, 38.9% of high schoolers had an A average, and by 2016, that rate had increased to 47%. Over the years, the usefulness of judging grades from students applying from different schools has decreased since different schools may have radically different grading standards and a disproportionate amount of students are earning the highest marks. Since grades are no longer a very reliable metric for admission officers to determine who should earn a spot at their school or not, standardized testing has allowed colleges.

Grade inflation has made grades an unreliable means of measuring a student’s proficiency.

It may seem to some that standardized tests only measure a small selection of arbitrary subjects that only benefit students who are proficient in those subjects, but it is important to realize that the subjects on the ACT and SAT (namely math and English) are core skills of which all students should have some mastery. While most students will never use calculus beyond class, most jobs and careers require a significant degree of competency in either math, English or both to be successful. Some students, however, may thrive in more artistic or creative endeavors, but unfortunately it would be nearly impossible to create a fair test that assesses one’s creativity. Students who are not as academically inclined have many other avenues to stand out in the college admissions process with essays, extracurriculars, projects and awards among other things. However, it is important that proficiency in the fundamental academic subjects is assessed by colleges and universities to some degree.

Though standardized tests have a lot of utility to help determine the most qualified applicants to colleges and universities, they have several problems that need to be addressed. The cost of taking standardized tests as well as sending the test scores to the schools one is applying to is ridiculously expensive. The stress and unhealthy competitiveness that standardized testing sometimes causes can be really toxic for the mental health of students. Finally, with the unique issue of COVID-19, some students have an unfair advantage because they are able to take the test while others do not have the ability to go to a test center. This luck of the draw can impact the college decisions that many thousands of students will receive this school year.

Colleges and universities need some baseline metric to evaluate who to accept, and standardized tests are the best thing to determine that.

The “holistic” admissions model is overall a good thing. Standardized tests should exist and be valued, but not to an overwhelming degree. It is important that students are not putting an excessive emphasis on studying for standardized tests so that they can do other activities that make them happy and leave them fulfilled at the end of the day. In the grand scheme of things, college is only a few years of one’s life so it is not worth it to waste one’s high school years agonizing over higher education.

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